Free Beacon Poll: Clinton and Sanders Tied in Nevada

Undecided voters concerned about recent Clinton controversies a week ahead of Dem caucuses

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton
Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton / AP
February 12, 2016

Nevadans expected to participate in next week’s Democratic presidential caucus are evenly split between the party’s two candidates, according to a new Washington Free Beacon poll.

The poll shows Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tied at 45 percent each among likely caucusgoers. Clinton narrowly edges Sanders among those who have completely made up their mind. But undecided caucusgoers and those who might change their mind say recent scandals involving Clinton make them significantly less likely to support her.

The survey was conducted between Feb. 8, the day before the New Hampshire Democratic primary, and Feb. 10, the day after. It shows no bump for Sanders after his 22-point victory in the nation’s first primary; by a single point, respondents the following day said they supported Clinton.

The stakes for both candidates are high after Sanders’ drubbing of Clinton in New Hampshire and her razor-thin victory in the Iowa caucuses the week before. Once seen as inevitable, Clinton’s candidacy has been dogged by allegations of federal crimes, official misconduct, and corruption.

Those scandals could plague Clinton in Nevada as undecided or swing voters settle on a candidate in the days before the caucuses. In 2008, more than a quarter of Democratic caucusgoers in the state decided whom to support in the final 10 days.

Of the 10 percent of undecided respondents, 87 percent say that Clinton’s failure to disclose foreign government donations to her family’s foundation make them less likely to support her. More than three-quarters say the same about her support for the 2008 Wall Street bailouts and subsequent paid speeches at investment banks.

In the past week, Clinton has come under fire for her refusal to release the transcripts of those speeches, and the Clinton Foundation has revealed that it was subpoenaed by the State Department’s inspector general as part of its investigation into federal government support for its donors.

In the Washington Free Beacon poll, a 47 percent plurality of undecideds say that Sanders is the more trustworthy candidate. Just 10 percent say the same about Clinton.

Clinton’s campaign has worked to downplay expectations in Nevada ahead of the Democratic caucuses there. "There’s going to be a narrowing in [South Carolina and Nevada]—we’re clear-eyed about that," campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said this week.

Fallon falsely claimed that Nevada is 80 percent white, suggesting that Sanders does better among white voters while Clinton leads among minorities. In fact, the state is roughly 51 percent white.

Polling in Nevada has been sparse, but the Free Beacon survey suggests that Sanders has managed to close a double-digit gap in the state. In December, a Gravis Marketing survey showed Clinton up by 23 percent.

Though Sanders’ numbers have improved, it remains to be seen whether Nevada voters who support him will turn out in large enough numbers to hand him another early-state victory. Among those who have participated in the Democratic caucus before, Clinton leads by 11 points, while first-time caucusgoers support Sanders by six points.

Like Iowa’s Democratic caucus, Nevada’s is open to any registered Democrat—including those who register on the same day. Sanders is hoping that a sizable chunk of independent voters end up participating; among Democrats, Clinton leads by 11 points, but she trails by 27 among independents, according to the poll.

The demographic breakdown in caucusgoer support reflects the trends of the previous two Democratic presidential contests. Sanders enjoys overwhelming support among young people; by 63-16, voters between the ages of 18 and 29 support the Vermont senator.

Clinton leads by seven points among women, but women under 30 back Sanders by a 40-point margin.

Sanders’ more radical policy proposals enjoy moderate support among likely caucusgoers. Sixty-one percent say that his plan to hike taxes on corporations makes them more likely to support him.

However, respondents were split on his $15 trillion proposal for a new health care entitlement and the large tax hikes proposed to pay for it. Fifty-one percent said it made them more likely to support Sanders, while 47 percent said it made them less likely.

The survey was conducted by Targetpoint Consulting, and includes responses from 1,236 likely Democratic caucusgoers. The margin of error is 2.9 percent.